Speaking the Truth in Love

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Bulgaria, which was still in the grip of a Marxist regime. Though the Iron Curtain had fallen, communist officials in Bulgaria had simply adopted new labels and stayed in power. While there, I had a chance to bear witness of the faith to the Bulgarian minister of justice--a fascinating experience that illustrates how important it is for Christians to understand worldviews in order to evangelize effectively in today's post-Christian world. The minister had heard me contend publicly that the solution to crime is moral reformation and, as we sat down together, he began firing questions at me. "Yesterday you said crime is a moral problem," he said briskly. "Do you say that in a sociological sense?" "No," I replied, "crime is a matter of individuals choosing to do wrong--a moral failure." He demurred politely. "It seems to me that crime is caused by social and economic forces," he said. "No," I responded, "the moral dimension transcends social forces." Back and forth we went, and gradually it dawned on me that the minister of justice did not even understand the concepts I was using. He had been educated within a Marxist system that regards people as merely complex forms of matter. Everything else--including religion and morality--is ultimately reduced to economic interests. The minister could not comprehend how I could treat moral choices as foundational for human behavior. To reach this man with the gospel, I realized that I first had to dismantle his materialist worldview. So I switched gears and talked about Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher who taught the reality of the spiritual dimension. I spoke of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the great Russian novelist, who probed themes of evil and redemption. I progressed to the biblical doctrine of the Fall, and the reality of moral evil--so much in evidence in the totalitarian systems of the 20th century. This same moral evil, I argued, is the real cause of crime. Gradually, light began to dawn in the minister's eyes, and eventually I was able to share the Gospel with him. Francis Schaeffer urged Christians to practice pre-evangelism--to dismantle a person's false worldview before presenting the Gospel. In today's post-Christian culture, pre-evangelism is more important than ever. We can not simply begin with the message of salvation, because people no longer understand basic theological terms, such as "sin" and "salvation." Our model is Paul addressing the Greeks on Mars Hill. Paul did not begin with the message of salvation but with creation. Anyone should be able to figure out that God is no golden idol, Paul argued: Since God created us as personal beings, He Himself must be a personal being--and thus someone to whom we are personally accountable for our actions. Only after establishing who God is, and our relationship to Him, did Paul preach about sin and resurrection. This is the approach we must take in our modern Athens as well. To learn how, read How Now Shall We Live?, a new book I have co-authored with "BreakPoint" executive editor Nancy Pearcey. You don't have to travel to Bulgaria-just talk with your neighbors or the parents in your kids' school--and you'll find they no longer even understand basic biblical concepts. We need to learn to how to speak their language in order to demonstrate that Christianity answers the basic questions of life better than any other worldview. We need to become nothing less than worldview missionaries in our own backyards.


Chuck Colson



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